The Charter Communications, NBCOlympics.com, Samsung Smart Hub Chronicles #fail

NBC Olympics

NBC Olympics

I don’t know what you thought about the opening ceremony of the “Games Of The 30th Olympiad Of The Modern Era,” but I watched it from seat 5D on JetBlue Flt 676 from LAX to JFK and, for me, it lacked some of the grandeur I was expecting.

Not to worry. Once they passed torch, lit the cauldron and sealed it with Sir Paul’s awesome version of Hey Jude, I was psyched to immerse myself in the hundreds of hours of cross-platform coverage offered by the Networks of NBC. (By the way, can you name the networks of NBC? Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the answer.)

On the first official day of the Olympics, MSNBC, NBC, NBC Sports, Bravo and Telemundo all carried fully produced, linear feeds. CNBC had a some coverage, then a combination of unrelated regular and paid programming. There was fencing, swimming, handball, archery, badminton, tennis and soccer. It was more than enough Olympic coverage for all but the most dedicated fans – but – NBC made us a promise – 3,500 hours of live, streaming coverage powered by YouTube. Awesome!!! Being a rabid fan of international table tennis, I was dying to see Szu-Yo Chen (TPE) vs. Krisztina Toth (HUN) go at it in the 2nd Round of Women’s Singles. Luckily for me, this very match was going to be streamed live.

Now, as you can imagine, I have a fair amount of technology at my disposal. Watching YouTube is so easy a child can do it, and I even have a few kids around. So, second round of the Women’s Table Tennis Singles here I come … well, not exactly.

I got an idea. I have a 60″ Samsung 7000 series connected in the living room and it has Samsung Smart Hub. The TV has a web browser so, instead of streaming to my MacBook Air, I could stream to the big screen TV and share the experience with everyone … well, not exactly.

First, I had to spend a while getting the URL into Samsung’s Smart Hub browser. When the browser is open, you need to move the cursor with arrow buttons around a virtual keyboard to type in alphanumeric characters. http://www.nbcolympics.com took 10 seconds per letter. Then, I was taken to a splash page that told me that I had to register to get the service. The Olympics streaming service must be authenticated through your cable provider. OK, 10 minutes more and I realized that I did not have proper login credentials to authenticate the stream.

If you’re a Charter Communications customer, you know just how bad Charter’s customer service is. After about 30 minutes of phone calls and online chats, I was able to get my MacBook Air authenticated. It was painful, but I was on a mission.

Next step, get the Samsung 7000 set up to stream. I don’t have a QWERTY remote, so typing credentials into the authentication dialog box was excruciating, but again, I was on a mission.

After I hit “Log In,” the dialog box went blank and nothing happened. The United States badminton team had just pulled within one point of the Koreans and everyone in the living room wanted me to make the picture full screen, so I had to abandon my dreams of streaming in favor of watching the American hit the shuttlecock long giving the match to Korea. Ugh!

With time running out, I asked the question, “Is there an App for that?” Of course there is. Samsung has an awesome remote control app for the iPhone and it solved the Samsung text input problem handily … well, not exactly. It took me far less time to get back to the authentication screen, but the results were the same. No joy.

OK, I get it. There will be no authenticated streaming on Charter using Samsung Smart Hub to view www.NBCOlympics.com on my big screen. At least not today, so … I’ll just logon with my MacBook Air and watch table tennis at my kitchen table.

On a positive note, it took only seconds to connect via my MacBook Air, but then, the first thing I was treated to was a 30 second commercial. I paid no attention to it, so I have no idea what product it was for. It had a bunch of images of athletes – pretty undifferentiated, but that’s for another column.

After an hour of failed attempts to authenticate and logon, and after a 30 second commercial, I expected to see Table Tennis. I got a video player window, but the only thing playing was color bars and a test tone. (A screen shot of what I saw is on the right.)NBC Table Tennis

To be fair, other sports were working fine and the image quality was great. My MacBook Air was the perfect personal consumption device for this content. But, I would really have loved to get the 60″ Samsung into the game. That would really have been fun.

What failed? Was it NBC, Charter, Samsung or YouTube? I have some ideas, but I really don’t know. What I do know is that an average consumer would blame everyone in this ad hoc ecosystem. Which makes me want to rhetorically ask, “How much better will this experience be on the yet to be released, hypothetical, Apple Connected TV?” The bar is set so low, Apple almost can’t mess this up.  For now, even with the best connected TV and the Networks of NBC powered by YouTube, the only way was using a Thunderbolt to HDMI cable — problem solved … well, not exactly.

(Answer to the question, “What are the Networks of NBC?”: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNBC World, CNBC Asia, NBC Sports, Bravo, Mun2, SciFi, Trio, Universal HD, USA Network, A&E, Chiller, cloo, Comcast SportsNet, E!, G4, Golf Channel, International Television, Oxygen, Sprout, Style Media, The Weather Channel, Telemundo, and a bunch of digital properties.)

Author:

Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, Shelly Palmer Digital Living Daily, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy® Awards).

  • Renoman47

    I would bet that Charter was the fail. Omg they are terrible.

  • Jim

    I have had the same problem trying to stream via the Internet Browser on my Samsung UN55D7000. When I hit the “get started” button everything grays out. I imagine Samsung and NBC didn’t bother setting this up correctly. Would be much nicer to watch this on the 55″ screen instead of my MacBook Air!

  • Deryk

    Same issue here. Laptop authenticated just fine…once I went into my Charter account and created a charter.net email, which it doesn’t say you HAVE to have. On the Samsung, sometimes I get the login screen and sometimes I don’t. When I do, I enter my credentials and it just sits there. One thing that is a HUGE benefit is getting the full QWERTY remote for the Samsung. Save heaps of time, but doesn’t work with some of the apps like Netflix & Hulu:-( You’d think when these TV manufacturers start to make devices with application content, they would poach some heavy hitters that have been in the business a while so they get it right. Same way for cable doing internet though. They thought they knew everything and did it on their own when they moved into the internet arena…and you see how Charter is doing. Great write up. I feel way better knowing I wasn’t the only one that wasted a Sunday afternoon.

  • Doc Hall

    Didn’t go through all this, and just watched about an hour on old-fashioned NBC TV. On that screen NBC tried to cover too many events interspersed with commercials. We could not get into the “flow” of any event. Seemed to have event breaks interrupting the commercials. Even without the commercial excess, too much is happening at once to focus on anything. Decided not to watch any more of it.

  • Lizzard

    I just did a google search to see if anyone else was having this trouble with their Samsung TV browser. I have Comcast, so I’m going to assume this is an issue with the Samsung browser, and not my internet. Good to know my money was well spent.

  • Michael in Stone Mountain

    Thanks Shelly for presenting this mess is such an informed and even enjoyable way–I hope someone who can do something about these kinds of problems does something.
    I’m one of those guys who is waiting for all this stuff to get perfected so I can use it without making a profession out of it!

  • jay near boston

    I just ran an hdmi cable from my laptop to the back of my hdtv. Just treat the big screen as another monitor. Works great, and I can switch between the cable feed and the live extra feed with my tv remote. All the jetsons stuff can wait for rio.

  • TV Engineer

    So what if you are not a cable (or othe MVPD) subscriber. Can you watch the straming content?

  • http://twitter.com/rayjbenet Ray Bennett

    Brilliant recap, Shelly. Customer Experience clearly requires more work to execute than it does to tweet the idea. I was disappointed that NBC couldn’t figure out how to monetize this outside of its mainstream paid subscriber base. My cable company has 1200 members. When my bandwidth drops, the Lead-Tech/VP-of-ops/CTO stops by my house to explain that they had to split node 3 this morning and all should be good now. I’d have paid $100 to be able to watch the 7 events I really care about streamed live. But they had no way to get it from me, or even know that I was willing to pay.

  • Deryk

    This just in…Charter only has smart PHONES and TABLETS on their list of approved devices for Live Extra. Not only that, but be careful with residential connections and read the fine print because you are capped to something like 200mb per month according to one of the Charter Business techs. #monopoly